Western Fence Lizards

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Often called "blue bellied lizards" the Western Fence Lizard can be found scurrying about in less populated areas (e.g. South Campus). These guys are native to all of California except deserts. They like to sit on elevated objects (like fences) and sun themselves. They can vary their coloring from light brown to black according to their surroundings and have iridescent blue on their bellies and (on males) necks.

According to the California Academy of Sciences, Western Fence Lizards' blood contains a protein that kills the Lyme disease-causing bacterium. Apparently the bacteria (Borrelia) is carried in the guts of ticks and can be spread by biting all kinds of animals. But if an infected tick bites a Western Fence Lizard, the Borrelia is killed off completely, leaving the tick's future bites harmless. Pretty cool!

Like most lizards, they eat small insects. You have to be pretty damn quick if you want to catch one, but it is possible. If trying to obtain a free pet, beware. The tails DO come off. Also, its not recommended to keep wild animals as pets, as it is stressful for them to adjust their lifestyle and likely that they won't survive the transition. Most people advise to let them go where they were found rather than risking killing it by improper care. Capturing lizards and other wildlife without a permit is illegal, so don't do it in a way that causes problems or you will probably get caught. [WWW]http://www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/specialpermits/specialpermitsdescrip.html has more information on permits offered by the Department of Fish and Game, some of which apply to reptiles.

If you so desire to capture a Western Fence lizard, there are two methods. One involves using a fishing pole, with a loop of fishing line at the end and the other involves using your hands. With the fishing line method, you can construct the fishing line two ways, either to have a length of line extending from the tip, ending in a slipknot, or to have the end of the pole be a loop. The first method is highly recommended, as beginners tend to decapitate the poor lizards by pulling the line in the latter too hard. Now that you have a lizard catching pole, the goal is to first spot a lizard. They are most easily found sunning themselves on top of rocks in the morning, but in some places, like near Cache Creek, can be found easily throughout the day in sunny weather. You want to approach the lizard carefully, preferably slowly, and from behind. Then slowly loop the loop behind it's head, and simply lift, with the slipknot, or pull the loop close. Then put the lizard in a critter cage, or other ventilated container. Using your hands to catch a lizard requires a special set of circumstances. If you see a lizard on a tree, facing you, get close enough to wrap your arm around the tree, and stare intensely at the lizard. It'll pay attention to your head. Then quickly, and gently slap your arm around the tree and grab the lizard, gently, then place it into the critter cage. This is the method used in the biology of parasitism class to capture fence lizards for measuring of malaria in their blood.

Captain Tuttle is a Western Fence Lizard one of the few who happened to cope with the transition quite well, he even has his own DWiki page!

This little fellow was hanging on my screen door today. He is young, about half full-grown and quite docile. He has already lost a piece of his tail, probably to a neighborhood cat.—GrumpyoldGeek

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2005-08-05 03:15:02   Allison, you rock my socks! And now the Western Fence Lizard rocks my socks too...and its all YOUR FAULT!! I miss you, and congrats on ur first page!! —AndreHarris


2005-09-05 08:13:36   Thanks for the info on the lyme disease and lizard blood connection. While doing a creek restoration project (Strenzel Meadow, Martinez) one of the volunteers asked while doing plantings and seeing a lizard, if it was 'good' that it was there! -Sharyn —SharynGalloway


2007-07-16 11:32:09   You can "hypnotize" a fence swift by turning it on its back and stroking its belly...but be careful not to break the tail! Do not try to hypnotize an alligator lizard, unless you want to be bitten. —K.C.STAUBACH


2010-05-14 00:55:47   First, it is illegal to keep wild animals as pets! Second, it's self-absorbed and self-entitled - they are not here on earth to be your entertainment. And third you are recommending ways to capture an animal that might - oops, my bad - decapitate him/her. How on earth can you justify taking such a risk with a living being? What a lack of respect. Just leave the lizard in the garden, catching bugs, where he/she belongs. They are very bold and fun to watch in their own habitat, no need to capture, strangle or own one. —kering


2010-08-19 09:30:26   I think lizards are super cute(:

btw. it's not illegal to keep wild animals such as lizards as pets. It is only illegal to capture an animal that is on the endangered species list. WF Lizards leave on their own after 2-4weeks. 63.38% die from being eaten by larger animals. If you want to catch a lizard as a pet then do it. —yoonmi


2010-08-19 13:47:11   See these little creatures all the time along Second St. and also downtown in the "Garden corners" along the business sections. —Wes-P


2011-09-28 16:08:35   I came across this in a search for more lizard information and felt compelled to add the following. First, I am glad that so many people appreciate these wonderful lizards. Second,Western Fence Lizards also eat other small lizards including each other - not just insects. And last to correct a comment above - IT IS ILLEGAL TO REMOVE WILDLIFE WITHOUT A PERMIT OR LICENSE. Ask ANY CA Fish & Game or US Fish & Wildlife warden. I work at a museum in CA and was a park ranger for many years. Please do not teach people to remove these lizards or that it is acceptable because so many die. I know many die - but the more people take out the less will be left to help us with Lyme Disease - and studies have proven how much they help. And since I was able to access this page through a basic Google search - who knows what 8 or 10 year old saw this and is trying those techniques (more children have internet access than you think). Unfortunately today when we post things online you have to be aware of all aspects of who would read it. And when it comes to a lizard that so many people try to catch for fun and can harm in the process... the less they know how to do so the better. —Pyratehawker


2012-06-17 01:11:23   PyrateHawker says "IT IS ILLEGAL TO REMOVE WILDLIFE WITHOUT A PERMIT OR LICENSE". The man talks like a law enforcement guy. They only tell you what THEY want you to know, in order to accomplish THEIR goals (in my experience). This raises questions in my mind. Remove from WHERE? Private land? BLM land? USFS land? Park lands? University lands? And also, whose law is it? I mean, where can I check on the wording? California Law? Federal law? Municipal law? I am not firmly settled in my mind if it can be good or is always bad, to capture lizards. Sure it impacts them. No, that isn't good. Yes, I care. But we impact animals all the time in our culture. Wild and domestic. Can we disturb some species but not others? Suppose my grandson catches a Blue-belly. Suppose he puts him in a comfortable cage and reads about their needs. Suppose he is fascinated by the lizard, maybe he uses a magnifying glass (much like the one in my desk drawer right now from the UCD bookstore back about 1972). He looks at the the scales and how flexible they are. He stares at the little 'hands' so elegant looking. The beautiful eyes. Will he be likely to swerve to miss a lizard running across the road? Or will he pop it like so many people do to mating-season tarantulas, or cats, or toads, or ....? With such a high mortality rate in the wild maybe the lizard will live longer in the cage. Maybe GS will take the lizard to school and tell all about it. Maybe hundreds of people will ultimately be struck by the extreme wonderfulness of lizards, and write a letter both the newspaper editor and to the city council when the Blunt-Nosed Leopard Lizard is being squeezed from his habitat by yet another sprawling subdivision? Maybe the Blue-belly lived for just such an exalted purpose? —GeorgeBearden

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